Greg McElroy was a star quarterback at the University of Alabama who led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season and national championship in 2009. He’s now a college football analyst for ESPN’s SEC Network, replacing Tim Tebow on the network’s traveling pregame show SEC Nation. McElroy’s first gig of the season is this afternoon with a special 3-hour live show in Fayeteville, Arkansas. We caught up with McElroy to discuss replacing Tebow, how he got into broadcasting and the best meal in the SEC.
TVNewser: Did you always know you’d transition to broadcasting once your playing days ended?
McElroy: No, actually. I was poised to, hopefully, purse an NFL career and then eventually transition into law school. To tell you the truth, broadcasting never even was on my radar. It was definitely a found opportunity. I’m obviously extremely grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to do this now. It really is a dream job. I never even thought I’d enjoy it as much as I do.
TVNewser: So how did you get into it?
McElroy: We [Alabama] had just played Auburn in December 2010 and they were getting ready to play in the National Championship game. They [ESPN] said, ‘look we’d love to have you out to Scottsdale and break down a little bit of what you saw from Auburn, as a player, considering you just played against them.’
I said, ‘sure… a free trip to Scottsdale, why not?’ Long story short, things ended up going really well and we’ve been in contact ever since. I, of course, still wanted to pursue the NFL and never wanted to look back and say, ‘what if?’ Once I decided that the NFL was not really my passion that much anymore and the SEC Network opportunity became available – I knew it was something that I couldn’t pass up.
TVNewser: What’s it like replacing someone as popular as Tebow?
McElroy: I’ve known Tim since we were 17 years old. We’ve competed against each other and played together and worked together in college and then into the NFL when he was with the Jets and of course working together at the SEC Network launch. I have the utmost respect for him but I just have to be myself. I’m not going to try to be Tim Tebow. I’m not going to try to be what he stands for. I’m just going to have to be Greg McElroy, break down the games and approach the job as if I were replacing anybody else. I can’t focus on things that he’s done, I have to focus on what I’m going to do.
TVNewser: When you were still playing, how did you feel about the media and how has your perception changed now that you’re part of it?
McElroy: I never really had a negative perception. I know a lot of people would say they have a negative perception of who the media is and how they’re often portrayed in the media but I always appreciated the media. I understood they had a job to do and there were times after a rough game that, yeah, I didn’t want to speak to them. But there are also times when I really appreciated the portrayal they would have. I’ve always had a good approach when it came to that. The thing that I’ve learned more than anything else is that it’s really difficult to ask thoughtful questions and the amount of preparation now that goes into a show or a column or any outlet. There is an awful lot that goes into it. I have more appreciation for the prepping now that I’m on this side of the table.
TVNewser: How do you feel about sites, such as Derek Jeter’s Players’ Tribune, that essentially cut the journalism out and let athletes tell their story directly to fans?
McElroy: Obviously the world is constantly shrinking and we live in a society in which we are, as media members and as players, we’re always in touch with our fans. I think that’s a great thing. But also, I think it’s very important to make sure that as players, we allow ourselves to give back to the people that cover our sport. I don’t think players necessarily realize how much and how grateful I was growing up listening to Babe Laufenberg. He was the guy in Dallas that I used to watch all the time. Now I really appreciate the fact that my fandom was derived from some of the things that he would do. I think that there is something to be said for that. I love Babe Laufenberg and think the media can play an important role but I also think it’s important for athletes to interact directly with fans as often as humanly possible.
TVNewser: What’s your favorite SEC school to visit when it comes to the local food options?
McElroy: I’m a real sucker for anything that is served in Baton Rouge. Mike Anderson’s has a char-grilled oyster and it is absolutely ridiculous. It’s just off the charts. They douse it in this garlic butter and throw it on the grill right in front of you. You can’t go wrong in Baton Rouge. I think every place there is just ridiculous but I’m a real sucker for Cajun cuisine. I honestly gain three or four pounds every time I go.